What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

The signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder can impact a person’s life in a number of devastating ways. This specific mental health condition can make it difficult for someone to make it through their day without grappling with one or more challenges caused by their obsessive-compulsive disorder. Thankfully, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a highly treatable condition.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health condition that causes recurrent and repetitive thoughts that trigger compulsive behaviors. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 2.2 million Americans have obsessive-compulsive disorder. The disorder occurs just as commonly in women as it does in men with the average age of onset being 19. 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is often referred to as OCD, is a type of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders impact upwards of 40 million Americans, making them some of the most commonly experienced disorders in the country. Despite this mental health condition affecting roughly 1% of the population, there are still several misconceptions about what obsessive-compulsive disorder is, what the signs and symptoms of it are, and who it affects. 

Common Misconceptions About OCD

Despite having more reputable information than ever before, many Americans still believe some misconceptions about obsessive-compulsive disorder. There is danger in misconceptions, as they can cause people to treat others without compassion for what they are experiencing. Additionally, misconceptions can stand in the way of developing proper treatment techniques that could otherwise provide safe and effective help for those who have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some of the most common misconceptions about obsessive-compulsive disorder include the beliefs that all people with obsessive-compulsive disorder:

  • Worry to excess about germs (contracting and spreading them)
  • Don’t display symptoms of OCD as a child 
  • Are unable to get treatment for OCD
  • Must be women in order to have OCD
  • Develop OCD because they are stressed
  • Need to have everything around them in the perfect place and position at all times
  • Can’t do anything but focus on their worries

There are certainly some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder who have worries that are fixated on germs or order of items, but that is not the case for all. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a highly treatable condition that can begin being detected as early as childhood. As mentioned before, obsessive-compulsive disorder impacts both women and men, and while stress can play a role in the severity of symptoms, it is not the main cause of this disorder. With the appropriate care, however, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder can live very fulfilling lives.

Signs and Symptoms of OCD

The signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder can vary based on the type of obsessive-compulsive disorder a person is experiencing. There are five types of obsessive-compulsive disorder, all of which produce symptoms specific to them. They include the following:

  • Checking
  • Contamination/Mental Contamination
  • Symmetry and Ordering
  • Ruminations/Intrusive Thoughts
  • Hoarding

The main symptom of checking OCD is fear of forgetting to do something important, such as lock the door, turn off the water, or shut off the stove. Despite checking to ensure that these things have been done, people with checking OCD tend to continue to compulsively check on them. This type of obsessive-compulsive disorder also causes people to forget if something was just a thought or an actual memory. Those with contamination/mental contamination obsessive-compulsive disorder often exhibit symptoms such as fear of contracting viruses, spreading illness, and germs in general. Symmetry and ordering OCD creates the fear that if something is not in the “right” place, something bad will happen. The need for balance with this type of obsessive-compulsive disorder is considered extreme. People who experience ruminations/intrusive thoughts as a result of their obsessive-compulsive disorder will have taboo, inappropriate thoughts (usually violent or sexual) that come to mind unwelcomed. They continue to ruminate on these thoughts and grow anxious about them. Those who have the hoarding type of obsessive-compulsive disorder have trouble getting rid of possessions, keep things that most people wouldn’t (such as trash or rotten food), or living in spaces that are so cluttered that moving around is difficult. 

Effects of OCD

The signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder can become so overwhelming that they begin to impact a person’s life in a number of dramatic ways. When treatment is obtained, the effects of obsessive-compulsive disorder can be properly managed so that they do not affect a person’s life in ways that disrupt it. Unfortunately, not everyone with obsessive-compulsive disorder reaches out for professional help. As a result, the effects of this condition can become prominent enough to create further distress in one’s life. 

It is common for people exhibiting the signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder to start experiencing the follow effects in their lives:

  • Withdrawal from friends, family, or loved ones
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Challenges with problem-solving 
  • Substance abuse
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Inability to complete expected tasks at work, home, or school 

Every person with obsessive-compulsive disorder is different, meaning that not everyone will experience the same effects. However, when left untreated, these and other effects can start to occur in the life of anyone who is dealing with this specific mental health condition. 

How is OCD Treated?

The signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder are one thing, but getting treatment for them is another. This is a highly treatable condition and can help people overcome their greatest challenges with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This particular mental health condition is traditionally treated with a combination of both evidence-based therapies and medications (if necessary). 

Evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are proven effective in helping treat those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. These therapies in particular are capable of showing people how to transform their thoughts and feelings so that their behaviors can be improved. Group counseling allows those with obsessive-compulsive disorder to heal in the company of others who are also looking to recover from this mental health condition. Individual psychotherapy, which occurs one-on-one with a therapist, is also beneficial.

Medications, if necessary, can also be helpful. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be treated with SSRIs or SNRIs, both of which are also used in the treatment of depression. Other anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed to help balance out uneven brain chemistry. Medications are more effective when used in addition to participating in therapy.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treatment in Florida

At the Neuroscience Institute, our team understands how deeply obsessive-compulsive disorder can impact you and your loved ones. If you are in need of help, or if someone you love needs help, call us or visit our website for further information today.

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